A 20-year-old student from Los Angeles has revealed that she is unable to enjoy the city’s kale-filled food menu due to an immune condition.
Jenna Gestetner, 20, was diagnosed with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) in March 2021 after months of stomach cramps, bloating and nausea after eating.
She claims she is now restricted to just glucose water and eight foods: turkey, fish, zucchini, cucumber, green beans, olive oil, salt, and limes.
Ms. Gestetner says she’s “disappointed” and “upset” that she can’t go to restaurants with friends, but the good news is that grocery shopping takes just three minutes.
Jenna Gestetner, 20, a student in Los Angeles, can only eat eight meals because she suffers from mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS)
He has had multiple allergic reactions over the years, including severe stomach cramps and nausea. She is pictured above at the hospital undergoing tests that later confirmed the disease.
MCAS is caused by mast cells in the body, a type of white blood cell found throughout the body, including in the skin, lungs, intestines, and near blood vessels.
Patients with the condition see their cells fail and begin attacking harmless substances that are mistaken for toxins.
Symptoms of the condition include hives, swelling, low blood pressure, shortness of breath, and severe diarrhea after being exposed to an allergen.
Treatment initially focuses on antihistamines and aspirin to ease the immediate symptoms of an allergy.
But doctors will then work with patients to establish what is causing the allergic reaction and what they can and cannot consume.
The cause of the condition is unknown, but doctors say it is unlikely to be related to any other disease or clear cause.
Ms. Gestetner says she needs to eat six meals a day due to her restrictive diet to ensure she gets enough nutrients.
She is pictured above undergoing tests to establish what substances she is and is not allergic to.
Ms. Gestetner said she started suffering from MCAS warning signs as a child.
But the condition was only diagnosed in March 2021 after urine and blood tests.
She said: ‘I was always the kid who had problems and it always sounded like an excuse. Eventually, I stopped telling people that something was wrong.
‘My parents knew about my struggles, but they didn’t know all the details: when they found out I was diagnosed, they were shocked.
She added: “I’m very lucky that my family supports me and helps me get the support I need.”
Before the diagnosis, he had tried to eat several different types of food, but suffered reactions to them.
When asked about life now, he said it was a “mixed experience.”
Due to the diet, you need to eat six times a day to ensure you get enough nutrients.
You also can’t try anything new right now or visit restaurants with friends.
Ms. Gestetener admitted that she has a cabinet full of snacks such as candy, popcorn, chips, sauces and condiments in her apartment, which she gives to her friends when they come over.
She said: ‘Over the years, I’ve gotten much more used to the way I have to eat.
“Food is social, so I often feel left out when I can’t eat with my friends, but I’ve found my own ways to be included, whether it’s bringing my own food or eating before going out.”
Ms. Gestetner now aims to stabilize her mast cells with medication so she can start enjoying more food.
He is a full-time student at the University of Southern California, studying Arts, Technology, and Innovation Business.
Explaining why he opened up about his condition, he said: “Diet is only one part of health, and health is subjective.
‘I want to be able to make other people feel validated. There’s a lot online about being healthy, but what’s good for one person isn’t always good for another.
‘Having a chronic illness doesn’t always mean you have a life-threatening medical device or allergic reactions; people have invisible illnesses that you wouldn’t know about from an outside perspective.
“Those who have these challenges can still live a normal life; there are just additional things to consider when traveling or even leaving the house.
‘It’s about living your life to the fullest within the parameters of your own health. I’m just trying to figure out what healthy means to me.
Initially, scientists believed that MCAS was a rare condition, but with increasing awareness, more and more people are being diagnosed with the disease.
Estimates of a Canadian The health care service suggests that around 14 to 17 percent of people may have the condition.
What is mast cell activation disorder (MCAS)?
Mast cell activation disorder is the umbrella term for a spectrum of diseases caused by the inappropriate activation or accumulation of mast cells in the body’s tissues.
Mast cells are produced in the bone marrow and are an important part of the immune system and help fight infection.
When mast cells detect an allergen, they release histamine and other chemicals into the bloodstream. Histamine causes blood vessels to expand and the surrounding skin to itch and swell.
Mast cells sometimes mistake harmless substances, such as pollen, for infectious germs, triggering the inflammation process.
This can cause the skin to become red, inflamed and itchy, and can also create a buildup of mucus in the airways, which become narrower.
People with this condition are at increased risk of having a serious and life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.
Symptoms include itchy skin or a raised, red rash, feeling dizzy or faint, and swelling of the throat, mouth, and tongue, which can cause breathing difficulties.
Source: NHS Options